Cody didn’t think he would get this chance..
On October 7, 2010, a month after winning the All Ireland and stopping Kilkenny’s five-in-a-row, Liam Sheedy's Tipperary management team announced they were stepping down. I doubt if Brian Cody thought he would get the chance again to square off against Sheedy on All-Ireland Sunday.
However, on Sept 24th last year, to the surprise of all in hurling, Tipperary GAA announced that Sheedy was returning to manage the county. Nine years ago Cody made the calculated decision to play two players recovering from cruciate ligament damage.
Whether this made a difference we will never know as Henry Shefflin was off the field in the 12th minute and John Tennyson struggled throughout. Sheedy and Eamon O’Shea’s tactic of dragging Tennyson out of position and getting him turning worked a dream.
Cody normally gets these calls right but playing unfit players (credit to Tennyson for lasting the 70 minutes) would linger in his memory. That defeat would have hurt Cody deeply and not having the chance for retribution will drive him on Sunday.
Huge experience walks the sidelines tomorrow - Kilkenny with Michael Dempsey, James McGarry and Derek Lyng standing fore square behind Cody, while Sheedy has Eamon O’Shea, Tommy Dunne and Darragh Egan.
Watch for some intriguing battles here as the emotion and passion from both groups will drive and inspire players to great heights. Lyng and Dempsey were as active on the sideline as I’ve ever seen them against Limerick.
Can Sheedy get the tactics right to upset the Cats again? O’Shea’s tactical awareness from 2010 will worry Cody who will rely on attitude and hard work that his team will bring to the battle.
Finals Murphy 5th v Hogan 1st:
If the All-Star selectors decided to pick their team the day before the final both Eoin Murphy and Brian Hogan would be in the frame for the No 1 jersey. Throw in Enda Rowland from Laois and you have some shortlist. Will the experience of Eoin Murphy, playing in his fifth All-Ireland final (including a replay) make a difference against the first-timer Hogan?
Murphy has been inspirational for Kilkenny, with his outstanding reflex saves and shot-stopping together with popping over a few scores as needed from long range frees.
Hogan, meanwhile, has seamlessly stepped into Darren Gleeson's boots. Murphy is also blessed to have three half forwards in Walsh, Reid and Donnelly that he can target for puck-outs.
All three offer serious aerial options to catch or break ball through to the incoming midfielders. They also will stop their direct opponents from catching clean. This is a huge plus for Kilkenny as Murphy is much more comfortable in hitting long and accurate restarts than he is short-passing to No 2, 3 or 4.
Brian Hogan’s strength is the length of his puck-outs but he does not have the big targets to hit now that Patrick ‘Bonnar’ Maher is missing through injury (Spare a thought for him tomorrow).
Hogan is appearing in his first final and sometimes this can be an advantage. From what I have seen this year in Fitzgibbon Cup he is a top-class ball-handling goalkeeper.
He will be disappointed with some of the goals conceded v Wexford but he has been very solid in all seven championship outings. It won’t be in their thinking, but a big performance from either will probably decide the goalkeeping All Star for 2019.
Which of the Mahers marks TJ Reid?
Five goals and 77 points in 2019 Championship, from seven games, deserves serious respect and no doubt TJ Reid’s exploits will get just that from the Tipp backroom team.
The consensus, based on what we have seen so far, is that Brendan Maher will man-mark TJ - to date Maher has picked up Patrick Horgan, Tony Kelly, Aaron Gillane and Lee Chin. This will leave Pauric and Ronan Maher to play numbers 5 & 7, still a very impressive half-back line.
If TJ drags Brendan Maher out of the centre, watch for Pauric Maher dropping deep and filling the pocket close to the ‘D’. They will be prepared to sacrifice a few scores from the wings as long as Maher offers protection to their full-back - probably Seamus Kennedy in his battle to keep Colin Fennelly from batting his trademark goals.
Reid has had a profound influence on Kilkenny’s progress. Tipperary must decide beforehand how they will try to mark him. Any of the three Mahers could be deployed but Brendan has the experience and the management’s trust to deliver in this role. It takes a very special player to deliver a man-marking performance that may require you to totally ignore the ball.
Reid is well used to being targeted for special attention as almost every team has dedicated a man marker to try and curb his influence. This is a major call if Tipperary decides to move Pauric from the No 6 position, as he has been a leader and inspiration from centre-back.
Taking him out of here is a major risk as TJ has the game nous to exploit this opportunity. If Brendan Maher picks up Reid, the success or not of his endeavours will go along way to deciding the 2019 champions.